22nd - 23rd June54 starters 20 classified finishers
The prospect of an exciting duel between Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar and Aston Martin' was enough to draw large crowds to the 24 Hour race now back at its usual date and reintegrated into the world championship. The Italians used the more liberal regulations to turn the early stages of the race into a veritable grand prix. From 19hOO onwards, Jaguar took over the head of the field and the Coventry marque's fifth victory (equalling those scored by the famous "Bentley Boys" in the twenties and 1930) fell to the previous year's winner Ecurie Ecosse. Flockhart notched up his second successive first place in the Sarthe, while Ivor Bueb also added a second Le Mans win to his laurels. This year the honour of upholding Jaguar had fallen to Ecurie Ecosse as the works team had officially announced their withdrawal from racing on 13th October 1956. In fact, there were 5 D - Types among the first 6 finishers, a record for the Coventry cars (and indeed for any make up to that date). In addition, Lotus won the Index of Performance and the Hamilton - Gregory Jaguar was credited with the highest speed on Les Hunaudieres : 287 km/h. Two cars broke the 200 km/h lap speed barrier, the no. 7 Ferrari and the no. 2 Maserati. Jacques Loste succeeded Charles Faroux as Clerk of the Course. Still affected by the 1955 accident Juan Manuel Fangio was a luxury replacement in the Maserati camp.Mr. Harrington, the US ambassador to France, gave the start.
CIRCUIT :13,461 kms. Unchanged
REGUlATIONS:The number of starters was fixed at 55. No cubic capacity or fuel consumption limitations. Minimum interior width of 120 cms. The two seats had to be identical. Windscreen height reduced from 20 to 15 cms. Minimum interval betwen refuelling reduced to 30 laps. No more than 36 consecutive laps in anyone stint. No longer obligatory to carry an on - board tool kit. Systematic exclusion every 6 hours in each class (and no longer at half - distance) of cars more than 20% down on the set average speed.
54 cars 4 nations 18 makes
France: 4 D. B. s, 2 Gordinis, 3 Panhards, 1 Talbot, 1 V. P. Renault.
Germany: 1 D. K W, 6 Porsches.
Great Britain: 1 A. C. ,lAmott, , 4 Aston Martins, 1 Cooper, 1 Frazer Nash, 5 Jaguars, 4 Lotuses.
Italy: 10 Ferraris, 5 Maseratis, 1 Osca, 3 Stanguellinis.
Makes, first appearance:Drivers, first appearance:
SUMMARY:V12 engines and 4 overhead camshafts for the two 335 MM 4023 cc works Ferraris, a 3. 8 litre unit for the 315 S, a 3. 5 litre engine for the 290 MM and a 3. 1 litre single overhead camshaft power unit for the 250 TR of Gendebien and Trintignant. Two of the Maseratis were the big brutal 450 S models one of which sported a special coupe body designed by Frank Costin. Two of the 5 Jaguars had the stretched version of the familiar 3442 cc power unit bored out to 3800 ccs, the cars in question being the Bueb/Flockhart Ecurie Ecosse entry and that of Duncan Hamilton. Of the 5 Jaguars, three were ex - works, the 2 Ecurie Ecosse cars and Duncan Hamilton's while only the Bueb - Flockhart model had fuel injection. Aston Martin also turned up with a new car, the DBR 2 made up of the ex - Lagonda V12 chassis fitted with a 3. 7 litre engine. The team also had a brace of DBR 1 s with the 3 litre V6 power unit. First appearance of the 1500 cc Porsche Spyder RS 718. Return of the air - cooled 2 stroke engine in the D.K.W. which had plastic bodywork.
After a bad start, Jean Behra quickly caught and passed the Ferraris destroying the transmission of his Maserati in the process. As the coupe had an oil line blow there were no Maseratis among the leaders after 18hOO. Ferrari fortunes were at a low ebb too as the Collins - Hill car broke the lap record on the first lap only to retire soon afterwards. The Hawthorn - Musso 335 MM lasted just 4 hours leaving the Gendebien - Trintignant car as the remaining challenger from Maranello before it too retired in the tenth hour. The Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar went into the lead at the start of the third hour and was never challenged in a trouble - free run except for one non - scheduled stop to change a light bulb. In fact, the car spent only 13 minutes and 9 seconds in the pits during the 24 hours! The only Jaguar to hit serious trouble was the Hamilton - Gregory D - Type which lost 2 hours due to electrical problems and an excessively hot exhaust which burned through the bodywork. It still managed to finish sixth behind the yellow Belgian entry which had lost 55 minutes out on the circuit while Rousselle repaired an ignition fault. The night saw its fair share of retirements and around the 12th hour the Porsche 718 RSK with Maglioli at the wheel hit the second - placed Brooks - Cunningham - Reid Aston Martin elininating both cars. The 4 Lotuses made it to the finish including the Hechard - Masson car which the latter pushed from Les Hunaudieres after it had run out of fuel. The A. C finished an excellent tenth on its Le Mans debut. A French entered Aston Martin, a Belgian - entered Ferrari and an American - entered Porsche won their respective classesAs the Flockhart - Bueb Jaguar took the chequered flag, few imagined that it would be 31 years before a Coventry car would again triumph at Le Mans.
RECORDS:A 21"7 reduction in relation to 1956 justified the C. S. I's anxiety concerning the performances of the Maseratis and Ferraris. Now in the Prancing Horse camp Mike Hawthorn again set the fastest lap and became the first driver ever to exceed the 200 km/h barrier getting round in 3'58"7, a speed of 203, 015 km/h. The Flockhart - Bueb D - Type Jaguar also set new outright distance and average speed records approaching the 4400 kms mark (exactly 4397,108 kms), a 10% increase over 1956, at a speed of 183, 217 km/h thus breaking the 180 km/h barrier for the first time.
Sports Car Races